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Hi! I just read your First Friday Fairytales post and I wondering if you’ve ever read/heard of Uprooted by Naomi Novik? It’s sort of a Beauty and the Beast retelling that also has some Howl’s Moving Castle vibes! :)

I LITERALLY JUST FINISHED READING IT AND I’M STILL FREAKING OUT. IT WAS SOOOOOO GOOD!!!! I’m going to write my full review and post it tomorrow! 

I personally don’t consider it a Beauty and the Beast retelling because it didn’t have enough of the motifs or plot structure, but Naomi Novik is very clearly inspired by Eastern European (specifically Polish) fairy stories and folklore. Though I definitely am feeling the Howl’s Moving Castle vibes, so you’ve pegged that right!

It was so fresh and beautiful!

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sidneyia:

I realize most people on here are too young to remember the Bush years but when you guys frame your SJ posts as “you hate[x]!!! why do you hate [x]???” it sounds an awful lot like how Bush supporters would scream WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA???? whenever anybody would criticize the president. 

So that’s something to consider if you want to reach people over 25. Because most of us have an extremely negative conditioned response to that type of rhetoric.

Yeah.

There’s a surprisingly sharp generation gap on Tumblr–when I first got on the site in 2011 it was between high-school age and college age, but I don’t think it’s defined primarily by life stage or maturity level, because it’s tracked steadily upward ever since. Anecdotally, right now the split seems to be centered around age 23, plus or minus a couple of years on either side, which corresponds roughly to the birth years 1990-1994. My hypothesis for the generation gap boils down to “how old were you on September 11, 2001?” Those solidly on the older side of the gap were at least vaguely aware of a pre-9/11 political landscape, witnessed how disruptive the first term of the Bush administration was, and have a visceral reaction anything that smacks of neoconservatism or Religious Right propaganda. Those on the younger side attained political awareness in a world where the changes wrought by the Bush administration were the new normal, and their right-wing bogeyman uses Tea Party and GamerGate rhetoric.

So for the record, Bush-era “innovations” that unnerve the FUCK out of people on the older side of the generation gap:

– Casual acceptance of fear as an excuse for hatred and pre-emptive retaliation

– An “ends justify the means” approach to stamping out the slightest trace of vulnerability, no matter how repressive the means, or how slight or unlikely the potential harm

– “If you’re not marching in lockstep with us, you’re one of THEM, why do you hate all that’s good and noble?” / “Dissent and safeguards against the abuse of power just give aid and comfort to the enemy” / “Don’t you SEE that insisting that the protections of civil society apply to THOSE PEOPLE is just going to GET OUR PEOPLE HURT, YOU’RE HURTING PEOPLE YOU MONSTER”

– Anything that smacks of religious-fundamentalist logic or rhetoric

These things are not normal. These things are not how just societies are built. They are the hot water that an entire generation of lobsters has been raised to swim in without noticing. The undercurrents in the internet movement calling itself Social Justice that disturb the older generation are, essentially, the dirty tactics of the Bush administration and its unholy marriage of neocons and fundies–rebranded with a new set of acceptable targets, but with the tactics themselves unquestioned. Are they the younger generation’s fault? Fuck no. They’re what happens when the most culturally and politically powerful nation on Earth tries to pretend it’s moved on from the Bush years, but without ever having confronted the devastation those tactics left in their wake, dismantled the self-sustaining fear-and-repression machine, or held the perpetrators accountable for their officially-sanctioned torture, shredding of civil liberties, and thinly-justified wars of aggression.

So if I were to do the annoying geezer thing (at the ripe old age of 27) and Address The Youth, I guess what I’d say isn’t just that most people over 25 get an overwhelming urge to throw up in their mouths at the slightest sign you’re playing “but why do you hate freedom” Mad Libs. (Although that’s true.) It’s more than that. It’s that “why do you hate [x]???” belongs to an entire toolbox of fear/attack, ingroup/outgroup, and absolutist tactics that we’ve left lying out without bothering to re-affix the giant warning labels that they aren’t normal, or necessary, or even effective over the long term, however tempting they may be for a quick fix. And that it’s okay to refrain from using them.

The bad guys will not win if you ease off the attack a little and give your opponents room to tell you where they’re coming from. Opening yourself up to argument-counterargument with Bad, Unacceptable, Forbidden ideas is a form of vulnerability, but finding and evaluating the weak spots in your beliefs ultimately strengthens them and strengthens your ability to win people over to your side. Doubling down on the repeated assertions that you shouldn’t even have to argue and that disagreement is harmful or immoral is an alluring way to get what you want in the short term, but it produces superficial compliance out of fear rather than genuine agreement, and the backlash it causes is ultimately more dangerous than the vulnerability of opening yourself to disagreement. And it blinds you to the possibility that you may not be entirely in the right. This isn’t some MRA sneak attack to manipulate you into ceding ground. This is how discussion normally works in a functional society. You have been handed a dysfunctional, toxic system for exchanging ideas, in online SJ as well as in wider politics–and no, it’s not normal or effective, and no, you do not have to buy into that system’s claims that it’s the only thing standing between the innocent and an orgy of destruction and victimization. 

The strangest thing about this is that I would not consider myself particularly old (does anyone?) but I was in my late teens on 9/11, and yeah. This is exactly what I find unnerving about the approach of some younger people to SJ issues. For a long time I just put it down to (im)maturity, but I’m really starting to think that there’s something fundamentally toxic and broken about the way our country has been approaching these things for the last 15 years or so. That kind of black and white, ‘if your fave is problematic then they’re basically the antichrist’ thinking that demonizes and squashes any kind of disagreement is really unhealthy, and it’s something that is learned.

Same, I’m 30, married to someone older than me, and we have a lot of friends in their 40s/50s. People I encounter on a regular basis comment on what a “baby” I am.  I was 15 on 9/11. I’m not like. Ancient. But there is a definitely a difference between how people my age discuss issues versus how younger folks discuss them. Neons have really done a number on out ability to talk about stuff. 

This would explain a lot about how fandom conversations have been going down recently. The absolute us/them nature of some of them, and the way SJ tools are used to bully people in order to win an argument.

I thought it was largely to do with Tumblr being a poor design for actual conversation, but this makes more sense, given the patterns I’ve seen.

I…think that most of the people on Tumblr will get older. The no holds barred, right or wrong, FUCK YOU surety is part of being a teenager. Then you get it knocked out of you and learn to nuance. Both phases have value. What I’m saying here is that I think it’s more developmental than generational.

I don’t understand what this has to do with 9/11

9/11 largely serves as a convenient symbolic marker for a severe shift in public discourse– I was 14 when it happened and I very clearly remember the before-times socially and politically and the after, when there really was a huge public shift in the way things were discussed, and how people in my age group and a  little younger responded to things like “national tragedies,” “us vs them,” good vs evil" etc?

Kind of dumb example but I think is illustrative– when we were 12/13, the year before 9/11, a group of kids went to DC and New York and visited all the war memorials. People whose uncles and fathers had fought in Vietnam visited the wall and Arlington, were moved, went through all the ceremonial stuff, but not to the point of dramatic hysterics. Maybe two/three years after 9/11, many of the same kids went to Pearl Harbor while we were on tour in Hawaii and everything was prefaced with this really jingoistic Us Vs Them language, and half the group spent the entire time bawling performatively. There were also a lot of recriminations for not engaging in the theatrics, because it wasn’t showing Proper Respect to Our National Heroes, none of whom any of these kids could have known because they all died in 1941.

My little brother is only 22 months younger than me but he doesn’t really remember the day at all, and doesn’t really remember anything about the politics or big news stories from beforehand, whereas I very clearly remember having an opinion about the 1996 election and my The Talk with my mom was kicked off because of the Clinton impeachment. 9/11 kicked off a lot of the worst of what we see in American political discourse today, and so people who don’t remember it as clearly or the time before may have different outlooks, especially in the States.

On the one hand this is a fairly enlightening take on the somewhat rabid state of what passes for online discourse these days.

On t’other, remind me again why we haven’t built a wall around America yet?

This is a fascinating conversation. I think there’s more to it than this–the way digital social spaces intersect with social phenomena informs the discourse hugely–but there’s a lot here worth considering.

It also occurs to me that a lot of us who were old enough not only to remember 9/11, but also to be aware of the shift in public discourse around it, are also old enough to remember the Cold War, or at least its last lingering throes. 

I’m 32, and I grew up with parents who were very active in the nuclear freeze movement. One of the fundamental truths I absorbed very early was that us-vs.-them absolutism and refusal to compromise and engage in good faith with ideological opponents wasn’t just stupid; it was deadly–potentially on a massive, global scale. I remember projects to hook U.S. kids up with penpals in the U.S.S.R. in hopes that we’d learn to see each other as people and so maybe not end life on fucking Earth if by some miracle our parents didn’t beat us to the punch.

And that approach was critical to the peace movement in general: humanizing the enemy. Trying to find points of connection; to learn to disagree humanely. That was a core, fundamental value of my childhood, in ways that were very closely and directly linked to the contemporary geopolitical scene; and they’re philosophies that continue to profoundly inform and steer my discourse and my approach to conflict–personal and political–as an adult.

Which is part of what scares the shit out of me about the discourse I see online, especially from the left: it’s all about radical dehumanization. I see people who are ostensibly on my side casually call other human beings trash or garbage or worthless. Scorch earth. Go to unbelievable lengths to justify NEVER engaging. Meet overtures to peace or steps toward change with spectacular cruelty.

I mean, I’ve seen variations on this exchange more times than I can count:

“[group x] are people, too.”

“No, they’re not.”

And then people LOL, and I don’t even know where to start, because–No. You do not say that. You do not EVER say that. EVER.

And I can so easily imagine how terrifying it must be to grow up in that–to be 15 or 16 or 17 and just becoming, and trying to find and place and grow into yourself in that kind of violence, and–

–to paraphrase someone profoundly and complexly flawed and still a person worth paraphrasing: Remember, babies, you gotta be kind.

Rachel is so very, very spot-on here.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, and part of what it boils down to, especially with regard to fandom, is:

1) “This piece of media upholds a status quo or supports a position that marginalizes people” != “This piece of media is worthless and anyone who likes it is a horrible human.”

2) The flipside of the above, which is “I like this piece of media” SHOULDN’T = “This piece of media is perfect and I will shut up anyone who criticizes it.”

It’s okay to like problematic things. It’s okay for other people to like problematic things.

It’s not okay to say that because you like something, it’s not problematic and people can’t talk about how it’s problematic. 

It’s also not okay to say that because something is problematic, other people can’t like it, that they’re wrong to see things that speak to them in it, etc. (Note: I’m not talking about if the problematic elements THEMSELVES are what they like.)

I just thought I might add something to this conversation from the other side, since I was 1 when 9/11 happened.  I can’t remember what the country was like before Bush, I can barely remember the Bush administration itself, and when I was reading earlier in the post one of the things that hit me hardest was the line:

Opening yourself up to argument-counterargument with Bad, Unacceptable, Forbidden ideas is a form of vulnerability, but finding and evaluating the weak spots in your beliefs ultimately strengthens them and strengthens your ability to win people over to your side.

I’ve been trying to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of hateful rhetoric that’s everywhere in our media, but even I realize I’ve internalized this idea that  looking at the other side’s beliefs is somehow a poisonous and traitorous thing to do.  The phrasing that @shinelikethunder​ used perfectly describes the line of thinking that I’m trying to get out of my head and my thought process.  That conceding on any point is giving up or giving in.

More importantly, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t always true, that this thought process isn’t normal to some people, and I have to thank everyone for having this discussion so that I could find out.  I thought it was just an American thing.  For example: Trump, his nomination, and his presidency haven’t surprise me that much.  He is only the continuation of what I’ve seen in my life to be standard politics, and his hatred a normal thing.

Anyway, I just thought it might be useful to have input from the younger side.

That last bit does give some context to the young/old break on Clinton, actually.  The idea that the two candidates were “equally bad” because neither was perfect did seem to have a stronger expression in younger voters.  And I usually hear it explained as older voters being more cynical/inured to ‘politics as usual’ but I think there’s something to the idea that that the older you are, the more likely you are to see sitting down with the opposition and hashing out the argument as normal.  Likewise changing your opinion based on new information/arguments.

I think the late Cold War did have a profound impact on Gen X and early Millennial attitudes toward disagreement. My mother used to tell me stories about nuclear war drills, when she hid under her desk as a child, knowing that wasn’t going to do a dang thing for her because by then everyone had seen the photos coming out of Japan. There was a kind of resigned, helpless terror in her voice when she described those drills to me, because we were still living in the Cold War at the time. We’d stopped the drills, though. They gave no comfort anymore. (We still had bunkers under many of the local public buildings, though.)

It’s why I had a Chinese pen pal, even though it was weird as heck to see the black marker lines across parts of her letters. Even though the remaining sentences didn’t always make sense.

Because Gen X didn’t just see 9/11.

We saw the Wall come down. If you’re old enough, you know what I mean without thinking. That’s how big a deal those images were. Photographs of ordinary people with crowbars and sledgehammers climbing all over the Wall and smashing it to pieces. It was the physical representation of the iron curtain falling. (If that man builds his dream wall and we don’t do this, if we don’t rise up as a mass with simple tools and take it down with our own hands, then my last faith in humanity will be destroyed.) My whole world up to that point was divided into thirds. Suddenly one of those divisions crumbled.

We saw the tanks drive over the children in Tiannamen Square, children my own age camped out in tents on that early morning, sleeping, unaware. Children with dreams and bodies and hopes. Gone. (We also saw the man who stood in front of the tanks and stared them down. The man who with his own body refused. That moment of defiance, when the tanks paused and would not move forward.)

What I think happens, as far as I can see through the eyes of my great grandparents to now, is that history moves in waves. We forget and relearn important lessons, not as individuals, but as societies. I’m sorry for those who were born into the 21st century’s version of McCarthyism. You shouldn’t have to carry this. But please be aware – it can be unlearned. My mom unlearned it. Our survival does not rely on defeating everyone who dehumanizes us, because that’s literally impossible – they make up something like 50% of the world on a good day. Our survival relies on humanizing as many people as we can and forging connections that make most folks think twice before they spout words that encourage others to murder. Vulnerability relies on great courage, yes, but the ultimate reason the Wall came down and the ultimate reason the tanks stopped for one man was this: the wall had human guards; the tanks had human drivers.

There is a person on the other side. They disagree with you, or are pressured by circumstance, or have been fed propaganda. You may not be able to reach them, and you’re not obligated to put your life on the line to do it for someone else’s sake. But if you want to have any chance of connecting at all, you have to first recognize their humanity. Then you have to encourage that recognition to spread. Only then will we all recognize what boundaries are, what normal and reasonable treatment of other humans looks like. And yes, in the US, we have yet to ever have a moment where this was really true for marginalized people, which makes it all the more urgent that we accelerate the humanization process, crack the shell of the fear game, remember what it’s like to un-Other another human being. If we could do it for the USSR, we can do it now for the other half of our country.

This is very interesting.

I hope that the global nature of the internet will begin to serve the same purpose as those penpals in China or the U.S.S.R. Though the internet is rife with the toxic rhetoric already described, alongside that rhetoric we also see unlikely friendships being forged. I have friends from nations that a younger me would have probably been scared of, thanks to the political environment of my formative years (I was 7 on 9/11–old enough to remember it but not to understand the contrast of before/after). My father was a soldier–I was neck-deep in the performative patriotism (I used to wear flags in my hair on national holidays, all the way up until I was 17 or so). I have since greatly expanded my worldview thanks to college, and I have unlearned that blind patriotism. But I am also the lobster in the hot water–there are a lot of things about America’s cultural identity that I’m still not aware of, though I try and learn every day. I’m very curious to see how America’s cultural identity shifts as the millennial generation starts gaining real power in the next ten years or so. If the Big Orange Bigot doesn’t get us blown up first.  

Sarah Reads: Uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Date Started: July 6th, 2017

Acquired: Public Library

Why I Picked it Up: People have been talking about Uprooted for a while now, and it sounds like exactly the kind of book I wouldn’t hesitate to read in ordinary circumstances. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit why I didn’t pick it up sooner, and it has everything to do with the cover. My own book, Unrooted, obviously has a very similar title, and it’s so shallow, but in my MS document I used the same font for my title as the one on the cover of Uprooted. Further, the illustration of Agniezska on the cover vaguely resembles my protagonist, Pomona, especially with the flower motif. So, I was butthurt and silly, and this contributed to my unwillingness to pick it up. This was intensified by the fact that everyone said it was so good and I feared becoming self-conscious about my own book in response. Now that I have a publisher, this is less true (and my editor even said any potential similarities with Uprooted might work in my book’s favor). So, having gotten over myself, I couldn’t wait to pick up this book that people have been raving about so long and find out what’s exciting about it.

Why I Kept Reading: The writing is, as promised, very nice, though not as lyrical as people have said (I think I was expecting something along the lines of Tahereh Mafi). The pacing is nearly breakneck. So much has happened in the first three chapters that I’m almost as confused as Agnieszka, but not in a way that’s frustrating–rather, in a way that makes me want to find out what’s next. I don’t like the Dragon as a person yet, but he’s definitely an intriguing character, and Agnieszka is adorable and relatable. I also really appreciate the Eastern European vibe (Polnya = Poland and Rosya = Russia, which I know from my Russian classes. Russia in Russian, spelled in Cyrillic, is Россия, which transliterates to Rossiya, Poland in Russian is Польша, which transliterates to Polsha, but close enough). Anyway, I’m definitely looking forward to reading more, and to getting through a book in less than a month!

Stay Tuned for a Rating!

P.S. Meet Yozhik (Ёжик), my new friend! He’ll be helping me with my book reviews from now on. And before anyone says anything, yes, I know that Ёжик is literally ‘hedgehog’ in Russian, and my friend is named Hedgehog the Hedgehog. But it’s too cute and I can’t bear to call him anything else. I’m looking forward to including him in my review posts from now on!

First Friday Fairy Tales: July Edition (Wrap-Up)

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Thank you all so much for joining me for the first edition of First Friday Fairy Tales! Below is a post linking to all of the excitement for today (for those of you across the world, I suppose this serves as your introduction, too)! I had a lot of fun putting this event together, and I look forward to doing it more in the future! Remember, you can participate in any future edition by sending in asks about the fairy tale of the month (list below) and including the code FFFT. Also, if you’d like to make me aware of any folklore variants or retelling recommendations or amazing art, I definitely want to hear from you! I can’t wait for next month!

July Edition Posts:

This is something I plan to do as long as I am able. For now, I’ll share the agenda for the rest of this calendar year, but I’m already thinking way ahead for what kinds of tales I can cover next year, too. Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the 2017 calendar year:

Here’s looking to next month!

-Sarah

(Header Art by K.Y. Craft)

First Friday Fairy Tales: July Edition (Your Thoughts)

Thank you all so much for being with me for the first edition of First Friday Fairy Tales. I had so much fun putting this together, and I look forward to doing more in the future! For my last installment of the day, I’d like to include asks that I’ve gotten from you this week about Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t get a chance to promote this much, so there aren’t many asks, but what I did get was still excellent. In the future, I’ll let you know this is coming up sooner and hopefully get even more participation! Below the cut, I’ll share your thoughts and my responses!


@grimoireoffolkloreandfairytales ASKED: 

Hi, first of all, your fairy tale friday sounds like excellent idea. Second, here is something I’ve been considering for some time: involvement of fairies. Villeneuve’s version is filled with them and their machinations. Beaumont’s has good fairy helping and prince claiming he was cursed by wicked fairy after he didn’t let her in during rain. Specifically I’m interested in what you think about fairies meddling with humans in Vill. version and morality of not letting fairy in in Beau. version?

Prince isn’t rude, spoiled child in that version, but how did he know she was bad fairy? And did morality have lesser power than laws of hospitality? Could we draw parallels with Sleeping Beauty?Thank you, great idea!

This is such an interesting thing to chew on! The presence of fairies is one of my favorite aspects of the French tales. I love how mischievous and magnificent they are, and how they very much do not play by the rules of humans. You’re right that Villeneuve’s version has a great deal of explanation of fairy politics and interference, and that the punishment of the Beast and the others harmed by fairy meddling is not due to the human’s lack of morality but simply crossing a fairy (often entirely by accident). However, I think when you say Beaumont’s version, you mean the Disney version.Disney did draw from Beaumont, but I’ve just looked over Beaumont’s version here and found no explanation for the behavior at all–the “left in the rain” is solely a Disney addition. That said, the shifting of blame from the fairies to the Beast himself is a fascinating subject and the topic of a fantastic post by @konglindorm here. It’s best summed up by this quote:

This awful thing that happened to the Beast was his own fault, naturally. A very young man is sexually abused, essentially, by an older woman who is supposed to be taking care of him, and we change this into the story of an unpleasant young man being justly punished by a good woman. And then—then we do the exact same thing Beauty spent the entire story learning not to do. We immediately assume that ugliness of body must signify ugliness of spirit, and we adjust the story accordingly.

This change in the story is part of why this story is so often mistaken for a Stockholm Syndrome tale by modern readers. They assume that the Beast is a bad person because that’s the story they’ve inherited. Thus, there can be nothing good in him insisting Beauty live with him, and nothing good about their ensuing romance. Though the Beast’s technique for getting Beauty to stay with him in the Villeneuve version are still questionable, Beauty is not an unwilling participant and she is not a prisoner–thus, no Stockholm Syndrome. The point of the post I cited above is that the shift of blame toward the Beast mirrors how we view rape and sexual assault nowadays, especially with male victims. Please read the post, it’s fantastic! 

But the fairies in French stories are meant to represent forces beyond human understanding or control (lower than God, but still nearly unfathomable in their power to humans). They often enforce or complicate social restrictions–or destroy them entirely. Another tale with incredible fairy characters is Madame d’Aulnoy’s The White Cat, which is like Rapunzel combined with a reverse Beauty and the Beast (I’ll be discussing this tale more in a future FFFT). They’re even more antagonistic toward the heroine than human forces are, and this was part of how the French tale writers got away with being critical of their social systems–by having fairies, rather than fellow humans, enforce them. And yes, you could absolutely draw parallels with Sleeping Beauty in this regard. This degree of separation gave the writers a touch more safety, and if you read the tales with this in mind, it gives so much more perspective! Thanks for the ask–it was a great question!

@buggitybooks ASKED:

*whispers* I am Belle.

But if you’re Belle, and I’m Belle … ARE WE THE SAME PERSON?!?!


Thank you both for submitting! Next month will be Hansel and Gretel, so if anyone would like to send in asks and be included in next month’s post, send an ask (it would be helpful to include the code FFFT so I know to save it). I’m looking forward to seeing what thoughts you have for the next installment!

(Header Art by K.Y. Craft)